OER18: APIs … Opening for All: A beginners introduction to APIs using Google Sheets [Machina a machina]

Workshop at OER18, Bristol, UK, 19 April 2018

Open Education (OE) has a rich history of using and contributing to techniques, technologies and solutions from other open areas like open science, open source software, open data and open access. Within OER there is also a rich history of developing tools to support the creation and discovery of resources. A core technology often used within these tools is Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). An API is an interface that can be used by a computer programme to retrieve or interact with another application. Many popular online services offer such interfaces including Facebook, Flickr and many Google services such as Google Books (Stephens, 2014). APIs are also available in tools and services such as content repositories. A big advantage of APIs is given they provide a structured means to interact with other services it is possible to create applications that can be reused and repurposed.
In this workshop participants will have an opportunity to learn about APIs and how they can be used. Using Google Sheets participants will have learn how to access and use data from other services via APIs using the relative familiarity of a spreadsheet. Starting by using Google Sheets built-in formula participants will learn how to import and query data. From there more advance techniques will be introduced including writing API calls. The workshop will focus on extracting Creative Commons licensed resources which can then be turned into new OERs
The goals of this workshop is for participants to see the usefulness and the empowerment of APIs, gaining practical skills in API wrangling which they can build upon in their own work. Given these benefits a number of commentators are highlight APIs as a means to reclaim content often thought locked in other services (Woodward, 2016). As well as the opportunities of APIs this session will hopefully also highlight privacy and security issues such as the availability of data from services like Twitter (Weidemann & Swift, 2013).
As this workshop is based on using Google Sheets participants should are advised that to fully participate you should bring your own laptop and, if not already, create a Google account. For participants without laptops or unwilling to create a Google account they will be able to follow progress from what is displayed via the data projector or if other participants with laptops are happy by pairing up.


Stephens, O. (2014). APIs …what they are and how they are used in digital scholarship. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/4-APIs-CC-BY.pdf
Woodward, T. (2016). API Nirvana – The Content. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://bionicteaching.com/api-nirvana-the-content/
Weidemann, C., & Swift, J. (2013). Social Media Location Intelligence: The Next Privacy Battle-An ArcGIS add-in and Analysis of Geospatial Data Collected from Twitter. com. International Journal of Geoinformatics, 9(2).
Slides: Google Slides | SlideShare